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PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 23: Bob Bradley head coach of USA hugs Michael Bradley as they celebrate the victory that sends the USA through to the second round in the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group C match between USA and Algeria at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on June 23, 2010 in Tshwane/Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Bob Bradley;Michael Bradley
It will take longer to get to the year 2022 than an Andres Cantor gooooooaaaaalllll call. But hardcore soccer (footie?) fans don't care -- for them Christmas came today.
That's because today's the day that FIFA, in Zurich, announced hosting duties for not one World Cup but two -- in 2018 and 2022.
And the winners are ... oh, wait, you already read the headline, huh?
Yep, in about seven years Russia will host the big event and in just over a decade Qatar will see the globe's most popular sporting event hit its soil. This is the first time either country has nabbed Cup-hosting honors. Russia ousted England, Spain and Portugal to claim the Cup, while Qatar beat a U.S. effort that included lobbying by Bill Clinton and Morgan Freeman.
“Maybe America’s best claim to this World Cup is that we have the only nation that can guarantee, no matter who makes the finals, we can fill the stadium with home nation rooters,” Clinton had said to FIFA heavies. But it was not enough. The U.S. will now have to wait until the vote for the 2026 Cup to try to bring the tournament back for the first time since 1994.
South Africa hosted the most recent World Cup last year, and some estimates put the total viewership of that tournament's final between Spain and the Netherlands at 700 million. In the United States, World Cup ratings in 2010 were up 50 percent over the previous Cup in 2006.
Part of that leap can be attributed to the U.S team's improbable run to the round of 16. But the sport has also become increasingly popular domestically on its own, with youth leagues seeing rosters bulging with so many would-be Landon Donovans.
And parents are lacing up their kids' cleats at younger ages than ever. The soccer school Lil' Kickers operates 28 national franchises, with players starting as young as 18 months. A New York Times story recently noted that 55 percent of the roughly 100,000 Lil' Kickers playing this year are 3 years old or younger.
Of course, the sport is not without its share of black eyes. Bidding on the 2018 and 2022 Cups involved a FIFA scandal wherein 6 of the 24 executive committee members were accused of accepting bribes. Two of those committee members were disqualified from voting today.